The New Danger
Workers’ Republic, April 1903.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.
The notes, which are © 1997 Pluto Press, have not been included.
HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
The politics of France are so complicated that to the general public the task of comprehending them would require a closer study than most are able to give. Thus the fact that a leading French Socialist, M Jaurès, has been elected to the position of a Vice-President of the French Chamber was recorded in all our Irish papers as a great victory for the Socialist party, and has been accepted as such by the general reader. But few are aware of the true significance of the situation, viz, that his election is but a move of the French capitalist class to disorganise the Socialist forces by corrupting their leaders. M Jaurès is one of the middle class element which, joining the Socialist party in search of a ‘career’, were, by virtue of their superior education, enabled to make of themselves leaders of the working class movement.
Now, that working class movement having grown so formidable as to convince every one that the day of its triumph is within measurable distance, the capitalist government seeks for the weakest part of the Socialist armour that it might destroy the dreaded force, and so seeking it finds that this weakest part lies in the vanity and ambition of the middle class leaders. First M Millerand accepted the bait, now M Jaurès.
In other words the capitalist governments of the world are now adopting and improving upon the policy of corrupting or ‘nobbling’ the leaders which has enabled the English governing class to disorganise every serious attack upon their privileged position. Here in Ireland we have seen our Home Rule leaders most successfully pursuing the same game. In Dublin we have Mr Nannetti taken into the ranks of the Parliamentary party in order to confuse the working class who were beginning to distrust the Home Rulers; in Tipperary we had Kendal O’Brien, and in Cork county Mr Sheehan, both of the Land and Labour Association, the former a professed Socialist, and the latter being a vehement critic of the enemies of the labourer, now pliant followers of the men who antagonised their Association from its inception. In England we see the capitalist Liberals running a ‘safe’ Labour man for a Tory seat, Woolwich; in the United States we see men like Mayor Schmidt of San Francisco ran by a capitalist party as a Labour Mayor, and boomed as such by the capitalist press throughout the country, even whilst his police were breaking up meetings of the Socialist Trade and Labour Alliance in his own city, and in the eastern states capitalist political parties placing upon their electoral ticket members of a nominally Socialist party.
The universality of this capitalist dodge calls for an equally universal move against it. Up to the present we regret to say there is not much evidence that the Socialist parties of the world are clear upon the course of action to be followed in fighting this insidious scheme. If we except the Socialist Labour Party of the United States, and the Parti Ouvrier of France, there is no Socialist party which does not betray signs of wobbling upon the matter. In Germany the Social Democratic Party has admitted into its ranks in the Reichstag the High Priest of the men who accept such ‘gifts from the Greeks’, Bernstein; and in many other Continental countries the party is in a state of internal war over the matter. In England no one as yet has been asked into the Cabinet from the Socialist ranks, but there are scores fighting to get in a position to be asked, and hungering to accept.
The Social Democratic Federation has been drugged in this matter in the most shameful fashion. At the Paris Congress their representatives were induced to vote for Millerand – the first of the intellectuals to sell out – chiefly by the representations of Quelch and Hyndman, and against the advice and indignant remonstrance of the pioneers and veteran fighters of the Socialist movement in France. Now that all Quelch and Hyndman, & Co, said in favour of the compromise has been utterly falsified, and the most bitter denunciations of Millerand most amply justified, Hyndman joins in the cry against him, but even in doing so he shows no sign of shame for having voted to condone the treachery he now condemns.
This carefully stimulated indignation only excites amazement. In an article in Justice, March 21, after recapitulating all the acts of treachery of which Millerand has been guilty since Hyndman voted against his condemnation the latter says: “But now comes the most serious part of the whole affair. Millerand has just republished his speeches, with an introduction.” And this is “the most serious part of the whole affair”, in Hyndman’s estimation. But to do our London comrade justice he does not propose to leave us without a remedy. What is his remedy? Consider! the Socialist movement is convulsed by this capitalist move, and by the presence in the Socialist ranks of weaklings and ambitious middle class elements ready to be corrupted, and in this moment of international danger the man who is the trusted leader of the Socialist movement in one of the most important countries in Europe, England, proposes as a means, nay, as the only means of settling it all that he should debate the matter with Millerand at a public meeting. This, he says, is the “only way to bring the matter to an issue”.
As a piece of opera-bouffe that would be excellent; as a piece of serious politics it is beneath contempt.
As an exponent of Socialist economics Hyndman has no more ardent admirer than the writer of this article, but we contend that as a political guide his whole career has been one long series of blunders; a fact that explains, as nothing else can explain, the wobbling state of the movement in England. The key note of his character has been to preach revolution and to practise compromise, and to do neither thoroughly.
But why should we criticise an English Socialist? Because what injures the Socialist movement in one country injures it also in others, and because this country is unfortunately tied to England and therefore is influenced by her politics more than by any other. And the weakness of the real revolutionary movement in England is a constant danger to the hopes of freedom in Ireland.
As a matter of fact we would have criticised more often and more unreservedly than we have done the position of our SDF comrades were it not for the fact that they are English, and we had always an uncomfortable feeling that did we criticise them it would please the chauvinist Irishman, and we had no desire to flatter his narrow prejudices at the expense of Socialists, no matter how mistaken these latter were. But such considerations must yield to the greater gravity of the present circumstances.
It is necessary in Ireland as well as in England to emphasise the point that the policy of the capitalist at present throughout the world is the policy of pretended sympathy with working class aspirations – such sympathy taking the form of positions for our leaders – and the man who can not diagnose the motives directing that move BEFORE the harm is done, is a danger to the Socialist movement.
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Last updated on 11.8.2003